Monday, 24 May 2021
Ong Hwee Soo
John 4:1-45 (Please read)
The above passage narrates a beautiful story of Jesus crossing various boundaries to reach out to an individual and thereby a community.
Firstly, Jesus crossed a geographical boundary as we read in v 4, “And he had to pass through Samaria.” The verb ‘had to’ denotes necessity. Traditionally, the Jews avoided Samaria by traversing the Jordan and travelling on the east side. The verse indicates Jesus’ sense of mission, hence, He intended to save time and needless steps by taking the shorter route from Jerusalem to Galilee.
Next, Jesus broke a serious social barrier by initiating a conversation with the Samaritan women. To a Jew, that would be double prejudice on the grounds of race and gender.
Historically, after the nation of Israel (Northern Kingdom) with its capital at Samaria was invaded by the Assyrians, multitudes of Jews were deported to Assyria while the foreigners were brought to settle in Israel to administer peace (2 Kings 17:24). The intermarriages that occurred between those aliens and the remaining Jews resulted in a mixed race, impure in the eyes of the Jews who lived in Judah (Southern Kingdom). The pure Jews hated the mixed race called Samaritans because they perceived that their fellow Jews who intermarried had betrayed their people and nation.
For a Jewish man to speak with a woman in public, let alone request a drink from her (v 7) was a clear breach of social norm and a definite departure from social animosity that prevailed between the two communities. Further, a Jew would become ceremonially unclean if he used a drinking vessel handled by a Samaritan, as the Jews considered all Samaritans unclean (v9). Thus, Jesus crossed a rigid religious regulation in His request for a drink from the Samaritan woman.
Women generally came in groups to collect water, either earlier or later in the day to avoid the midday sun. If the Samaritan woman came alone at noon (v 6), this may imply that her public shame prompted her to isolate herself from the other socially acceptable women. A rabbi and religious leader would not hold conversation with a woman of ill-repute (v 18).
However, Jesus did tell her “Go, call your husband” (v16) which was culturally correct as in that society, no rabbi would speak with a woman without her husband present. But Jesus has another purpose in mind as He intended to get beyond mere conversation (v10-15) to touch her deepest emotional need. In so doing Jesus broke through her psychological perimeter to lead her to face her deepest needs.
While her reply, “I have no husband” (v 17) was technically correct, the Samaritan woman’s curt answer was meant to close the subject. However, Jesus with gentleness and compassion, revealed both her sin and His omniscient knowledge of her life. The Jews held that a woman might be allowed to divorce twice or thrice at the most. If the Samaritans upheld the same standard, the woman’s five divorces (v18) showed she was exceedingly immoral. To top it all, she had apparently not married her present partner. The woman was compelled to face the reality of her need for redemption.
However, she tried to divert the conversation from her own moral failure to a fundamental religious issue. Traditionally, because of the Jewish antagonism toward them, the Samaritans had set up an alternative worship centre on Mount Gerizim (v 26) parallel to the Temple at Jerusalem. The proper place of worship had long been a source of contention between the Jews and the Samaritans. The woman brought up a popular theological issue about the correct place of worship as a smoke screen to keep Jesus from touching her deep-seated emotional, psychological. moral and spiritual needs.
However, Jesus directed the conversation to a more important point: the location of worship is not as important as the attitude of worship (v 21-24), thus, once again broke the religious bound. It is note-worthy that whereas Jesus at the start of the passage, avoided a religious confrontation with the Pharisees by leaving Judea and heading for Galilee (v 1-3), here, He was willing to engage in a theological discourse with the Samaritan woman.
This lovely story ends with the Samaritan recognising Jesus as the ‘living water’ (v 10-15), as the Messiah (v 25) and the Christ (v 29). Abandoning her previous social shame and ostracism, her spontaneous testimony led her community to find the “Saviour of the world” (v 30, 39-42).It is indeed remarkable that Jesus traversed geographical borders, crossed racial and gender divides, contravened social conventions, demolished religious demarcations, broke through psychological barriers to reach out to the deepest needs of an individual whose redemption and transformation brought a community to receive salvation.
What boundaries do we need to cross to reach out to diaspora groups in our ‘Samaritan’ (neighbouring) areas? What are the ways we can bring the ‘living water’ to the thirsty and the ‘bread of life’ to the hungry?
Let’s Live the Life, Breaking Barriers.
Dear Jesus, You have shown us how You break barriers to make people whole. Empower us Lord, to push the frontiers, to reach out to those in the fringes. Enable us, to shine through the schisms that separate, so that people in the periphery can see your Light. Amen.
首先，正如我们在第4节所读到的，耶稣越过了一个地理分界线，祂 “必须经过撒玛利亚。” 动词 “必须” 表示必要性。传统上，犹太人穿越约旦并向东走以避开撒玛利亚。这节经文表明了耶稣的使命感，因此，祂打算通过从耶路撒冷到加利利的捷径来节省时间和不必要的步履。
这个温馨的故事以这位撒玛利亚人认出耶稣是 “活水”(第10-15节)、是弥赛亚(第25节)以及是基督(第29节)结束。她摒弃之前的社会羞耻和排斥，她主动的见证带领了她的社群找到了 “世人的救主”(第30节，39-42节)。值得注意的是，耶稣跨越了地理边界，跨越了种族和性别的鸿沟，违反了社会惯例，拆除了宗教界线，突破了心理障碍，接触到一个人最深切的需要，以致她的救赎和转变带来了一个社群的得赎。
我们需要跨越哪些界限才能接触到我们 “撒玛利亚人”(邻近)地区的散居群体？我们有什么方法可以把 “活水” 带给口渴的人，把 “生命粮” 带给饥饿的人？